15 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 10

Thursday, 15th September, 2011

I did not sleep well the last night. Lisa spent much of the night in the sitting room where she could sleep propped up to ease the coughing which has plagued her for the last day or two. At seven I started pottering around, putting away the bedding and emptying the dishwasher. I made coffee for us both but neither of us felt in the mood to eat anything in the way of breakfast.

We had plenty of time before we had to leave so we were able to finish packing and clearing the place up at a relatively comfortable pace. As she'd promised, Lisa called Perry about an hour before we left. We closed up all the shutters and took out all the trash, loaded up the cool bag with our food for the train and then had nothing left to do but leave.

We walked over to the Gorbella tram stop and rode down to the station with our luggage. We had three pieces each and they were somewhat heavier than when we left England because of the culinary supplies we'd bought to take back with us. We got to the station with over half an hour in hand but eventually our train was given a platform and we struggled down and up the stairs to get over to the right place. The train came in almost at once and we quickly got settled in our seats ready for the seven hour ride to Lille.

Our coach was very sparsely populated as we left Nice to begin trundling along the Mediterranean coast as far as Marsaille. At each stop along the way a few more passengers joined the train. We had smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches for breakfast and soon afterwards Lisa reclined her seat and settled down for a nap.

A big influx of passengers at Toulon left our coach pretty much full and, after Avignon, the train picked up speed for the long run north through France to Marne la Vallée on the outskirts of Paris. We had ham and cheese sandwiches and a couple of pieces of fruit for lunch. There was a mass exodus from the train at Charles de Gaulle airport and only a select few of us continued towards Haut Picardy and Lille.

We arrived at Lille just a few minutes late and made our way up to the waiting room to await the opening of check-in for the Eurostar to London. The train arrived on time and left promptly. The passengers from Paris had already been served dinner so we could not help feeling like late arrivals at a dinner party. After a while I flagged down a purser who then served us a meal with suitably profuse apologies.

The Eurostar was packed and there was quite a stampede on disembarking at St. Pancras but to my dismay King's Cross was even worse: the station was jam packed with people and it was standing room only on the train to Cambridge. It was such a relief to be released from this grim coda to a very pleasant journey from Nice! We got a taxi home, fed the cats and then headed up the street to the Empress to end the evening in congenial surroundings.

14 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 9

Wednesday, 14th September, 2011

In spite of the late night, I woke at seven. I lay quietly with Lisa until about nine before making coffee and taking out the bottles and "emboullages". We talked together about our sense of not having had as much "us" time while here as we would have liked. We determined in future to get up and out earlier so that we would have time to ourselves in the town before meeting up with Perry. We made a quick breakfast and were out around ten thirty.

We got off the tram at the Cathédrale stop and walked down through the main street of the old town, past the familiar shops and the fish market. Once at the Cathedral itself, we zig-zagged back through Vieux Nice to emerge in the Cours Saleya at les Ponchettes. By now the noon-day gun had gone off and the churches rung their agreement as to the hour so we walked directly round Quai Rauba Capeau to Foresta.

After a short chat and some nice cold water, we walked down to Quai Lunel to lunch at the Vesuvio, aka Chez Marinette & Fred. Marinette greeted us all warmly and we were seated at a very nice outside table. We all three consulted the menu but Lisa and Perry both decided to reprise favourite dishes from previous visits: an assiette cannibale (steak tartar and beef carpaccio) for Lisa and lasagne for Perry. I chose the "Joue de Lott" which was monkfish and moules in a creamy sauce flavoured with tarragon and saffron. We ordered a bottle of "Domine de la Croix" a cru classé Côtes de Provence rosé to drink, plus the regulation apple juice for Perry.

My dish was absolutely delicious! We definitely bookended our visit with the two best lunches judged on sheer quality of cooking. Lisa loved hers too and Perry was as satisfied as always with his favourite lasagne. Sitting on the Quai, in the warm sun, in such welcoming surroundings, eating such fine food (and very good wine too!) was heavenly. For dessert, Lisa had ice cream with chantilly cream and so (in the form of a Café Liègeoise) did I, while Perry opted for the "tarte paysanne". Coffee, of course, to finish along with a Limoncello "on the house". Perry graciously allowed me to pick up the bill for the lunch and, at the third attempt to get a card accepted by the machine, so we were able to treat him for once.

Lunch over we walked slowly down to the end of the Quai and then back along Rue de Foresta to Perry's place. There we sat out on the terrace and chatted for a couple of hours while looking out over the port. We ate the water melon that Lisa bought yesterday and Perry produced a half bottle of Champagne to toast Lisa's forthcoming birthday. The last parting is always the hardest but eventually we made our farewells, promising to call tomorrow and, of course, to return in March.

Lisa and I walked along the Quai des Etats-Unis to the Jardin Albert 1er and caught the tram at the Opéra stop. At the Casino on Cessole, we got bread and supplies for tomorrow's train journey. Back in the apartment, we reopened up all of the balcony doors and sat quietly for an hour or two before making a start on the packing. Once we'd made good headway with that, we turned our attention to the task of making the sandwiches for tomorrow. That done, we felt we'd made sufficient preparation for the journey and grazed on a selection of meats, cheeses, olives and tomatoes that we had left over. We felt very relaxed even though very sad that, yet again, we have to tear ourselves away from this place that we love so much.

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13 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 8

Tuesday, 13th September, 2011

Lisa was feeling a little better this morning so, after the usual coffee and breakfast, we got out rather earlier than usual so that we could do some shopping at the Market in the Cours Saleya. We took the tram to the Cathédrale stop and walked through Vieux Nice to the Cours.

Lisa bought plenty of Marsailles soap, herbes de Provence, and paprika from various stalls to take back to the UK and finally a quarter water melon to take to Perry's. Errands complete we treated ourselves to a beer at the Civet de Cours before making our way round to Foresta.

We put the water melon in the fridge and helped ourselves to cold drinks while Perry finished some work on the computer. Our goal for the afternoon was the photographic museum ("Le théâtre de la photographie et de l'image Charles Negre") so we decided to try lunching close by and if unsuccessful close to the museum. We were once again turned away from "G Square" (clearly we do not have the right stuff to be allowed the privilege of access to their tables - fortunately an attitude that is exceedingly rare in Nice) so we took a bus to the Pietonne were we ate at "O'Palermo".

Lisa selected a squid dish, Perry went for the moules (marinières) frîtes and I choose veal escalope à la crème. My veal was delicious and Perry enjoyed his moules but Lisa found her squid overcooked and hence somewhat chewy. I picked a 2010 Bandol rosé and Lisa and I shared a half-bottle of that while Perry stuck with his regular tipple of apple juice. The wine was excellent. For dessert, Perry opted for the tarte tatin with ice cream, Lisa had a Café Liègeoise and I got a panna cotta with strawberry coulis. Coffee, of course, to finish. Apart from Lisa's squid, all was very tasty.

It was just a short walk from the Pietonne across Avenue Jean Médecin to the museum on Boulevard Dubouchage. The current exhibition is entitled "Parcours photographique" and features the work of several photographers capturing different aspects of Nice in a variety of styles. I was especially struck by a series of large, colour prints in a series called "Urbanistique". These showed figures of people juxtaposed in settings at once incongruous and illuminating, such as a pair of depictions of a mountaineering couple posed on ledges high above the railway station, a pianist playing in the middle of the tramway, a skier skiing down the tramway, an angel about to dive into an empty swimming pool, and several more very arresting images of that sort.

We caught a bus back to Place Garibaldi and walked down Ségurane to Foresta. We made plans for the following day (our last before returning home on Thursday) and then collected our shopping but left the melon to share tomorrow. After a beer in the Civet de Garibaldi, we got the tram home and I went up to Monoprix while Lisa called in at Casino on her way back to the apartment.

After a couple of hours or so of chilling, to the accompaniment of some Ron Carter (with and without Jim Hall) on the iPod (the first music we've played on this visit), it was time to have some supper. Lisa prepared a pair of Toulouse sausages fried in onions and each served in a half-baguette slathered with Dijon mustard. These were wonderfully tasty and very satisfying. Thanks to Lisa's Casino expedition, we had a bottle of 2010 Château de l'Aumerade Côtes de Provence rosé to go with supper; very nice indeed!

We stayed up rather later than recently, so it wasn't until 12:30 that we both headed for bed.

12 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 7

Monday, 12th September, 2011

Lisa didn't feel any better this morning so she called Perry to say that we would stay up in Cessole for the day. I made coffee and we walked up to Monoprix via the pharmacy below our apartment where we got a nasal spay for Lisa. We got quite a lot of food for the next couple of days and some olives and mustard to take back to Cambridge. We rested up in the sitting room for a while before having something to eat for lunch at 2pm.

Lisa made us a picnic of reheated roast chicken, bread, cheeses and saucisson which we spread out on the coffee table in the sitting room and ate, mostly with our fingers. We enjoyed a 2010 Coteaux d'Aix en Provence rosé with the lunch.

After a couple of hours sitting with our respective iPads, Lisa (with my assistance) began to prepare dish of eggplant parmagiana which went into the oven to bake for a while. Almost as soon as the apartment was filled with the scent of baked aubergine, it was time to take the dish out and let it cool for a while before serving. The flavour was very intense, with a powerful aubergine taste which I really liked. We had a glass or two each of a 2008 Cahors that we had put by in the cupboard. After two portions each, we were both quite sated with eggplant parmagianna so we called it quits and I cleaned up the kitchen while Lisa snoozed on the couch.

Lisa headed for bed at 10:30 and I followed immediately afterwards.

11 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 6

Sunday, 11th September, 2011

It was very bright this morning and soon very warm. I waited until Lisa was moving about before joining her. I made coffee but she did not want to eat any breakfast. We went up to Monoprix to get some supplies and hoping to be able to get a cold remedy for Lisa but it seems you can't buy such things in supermarkets here the way you can in the UK.

Today being a Sunday, all of the local pharmacies were closed so, once we were on the tram, I called Perry to ask if he knew of one that would be open on a Sunday. He suggested two that might be open in rue Cassini so we rode the tram to Place Garibaldi and went down to the port that way. Both pharmacies were shut but the second at least had a sign in the window listing a few that were open today. We noted that one was back in Avenue Jean Médecin.

Once we got to Foresta, we explained Lisa's plight to Perry and he found some decongestant amongst his supplies of medication from the States. This gave Lisa some immediate relief such that she felt able to go to lunch on the port. By now it was getting quite late but we walked around to the far side and found they had room for us at La Vigna on Quai Deux Emmanuels. We all felt in the mood for fish today: grilled sea bass ("loupe") for Perry, a blanquette of monkfish ("Lott") and salmon filets in a creamy sauce for me, and a mixed seafood grill for Lisa which included salmon, cod, prawns and scallops among others. Lisa and I shared a half-bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé, while Perry had his usual apple juice.

The fish was all extremely good and all three of us were delighted with our meals. The best quality cooking since Le Nautique on Wednesday. For dessert, Perry opted for the chocolate fondant while Lisa and I both chose Café Liegeoise. The desserts and the coffee to finish were well up to scratch so we were very pleased with our whole experience there this afternoon.

We walked slowly back to Foresta by which time it was gone four so, after a short while chatting on the balcony, we retrieved our shopping from Perry's fridge and made our farewells. We stopped for a beer in Place Garibaldi and got a tram from there up to the Jean Médecin stop. We walked further up the street looking for the pharmacy at No. 60. To our great relief, it was indeed open and were able to get some "Actifed" for Lisa's congestion.

We continued up to the Gare Thiers stop where we caught the following tram to Gorbella. This was very full and sweaty and by the time we got in to the apartment we were both drenched in sweat. We did what we could to cool down and Lisa took an Actifed. Then she lay down on the sofa to try to get some sleep and I spent the next hour writing this up to date here.

After a couple of hours, Lisa wanted to eat so I prepared an "assiette de fromage" for each of us with some sliced baguette. We turned in around ten, with Lisa opting to try sleeping in the bedroom, at least to begin with.

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10 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 5

Saturday, 10th September, 2011

Yet another bright, sunny and very warm morning! Following our usual routine, we left at 11:45 and took the tram down as far as Opéra from where we walked through the Cours Saleya and round to Foresta via Quai des Etats-Unis and Quai Rauba Capeau. We talked Perry through changing the battery in his camera and inserting and removing the memory card. Perry proposed that we lunch at the "ex-Bliss" on Quai Rauba Capeau before taking a taxi to the Musée Matisse.

What used to the the Bliss is now known as "Leo's" and looks much more modern and "young". The food was good, though, although I don't think I made the best choice in opting for the risotto with mushrooms and truffles. Lisa had a Salade Niçoise and Perry a tomato and mozzarella salad which they both reported to be very good. Lisa and I had crème brûlée for dessert while Perry went for the tarte tatin. Very nice coffee to finish with.

As planned, Perry called for a taxi which took us up the hill to Cimiez and the Musée Matisse. As we walked over to the villa which houses the museum we passed a quintessential French scene of several games of boules in progress under the trees. The museum itself proved to be a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar exhibits which was well worth seeing. After the museum, we walked past the remains of the Roman arena, over to the nearby cemetery to visit the tomb of Matisse which is located in a peaceful, secluded garden away from the main burial ground.

We waited for a long time at the bus stop by the cemetery. Tour buses came and went and we saw a 1950s American Ford Custom sedan being used as a wedding car but no No. 17 bus came by. After an hour we walked a short way down the street to the next road where there were stops for other services and soon caught a bus into the city centre from there. We all alighted together at Avenue Jean Médecin and we saw Perry onto his bus to the port before walking down to Place Masséna for a beer.

We watched a succession of utterly crammed full trams heading towards the port where there was to be a festival tonight. After a while we walked on into the Cours Saleya and Les Ponchettes followed by pizza at La Storia. Lisa had a Cannibale and I had another very meaty one called a Pinocchio. We shared a bottle of Chianti with the pizzas. Towards the end of the meal, Lisa was talked into buying a wooden elephant figure by a Senegalese street trader; she did at least talk him into letting her have it for €10 rather than the €35 he initially asked for.

We walked back to the Opéra tram stop and were treated to a blast from Verdi's Aida as we passed the opera house. Once back at the apartment, we opened all the windows and balcony doors to help cool the place down a bit. At one point we could see and hear the fireworks from the festival at a the port.

I turned in fairly early and Lisa came to bed a little later but she could not sleep as her cold was feeling much worse when she lay down. Eventually, Lisa took her bedding through into the sitting room so that she could lie propped up on the sofa there. That way she did at least get a few hours' sleep.

09 September, 2011

Nice Journal - Autumn 2011 - 4

Friday, 9th September, 2011

The day of our excursion to Monaco started slowly. By the time we had showered and dressed and had breakfast, it was gone twelve before we set out for Gorbella. We got off the tram at Masséna and quickly found the stop where the No. 100 bus to Menton starts. The bus arrived almost immediately and we paid our €1 each and took a pair of seats towards the rear of the bus. The bus takes about an hour to reach Monaco, driving along the corniche by the sea. It was a comfortable ride and the views were magnificent!

We were unsure at which stop in Monaco we should alight and stayed on the bus all the way up Monte Carlo to the tourist office. There we picked up a street plan of Monaco and got directions for how to get from there to the aquarium by taking the No. 1 or 2 bus back to Monaco Ville. Once there it was not clear where we should go but we quickly worked it out with the help of our newly-acquired street plan.

We were pleased to find that the yellow submarine which we remembered from our previous trip is still on display outside the museum. Lisa bought us a baguette sandwich each for lunch which we ate while sitting in the warm sun. Lunch over, we got our admission tickets and climbed the imposing steps to the entrance to the museum. The aquarium is in the basement and the upper two storeys form the Oceanographic museum but much of the latter is currently occupied by an exhibition celebrating the recent wedding of Prince Albert II. As our main reason for coming was to see the aquarium, we headed downstairs into the gloom.

There is a lot to see in a relatively compact area. A large central shark lagoon is flanked by two wings: one for tropical fish and the other for Mediterranean fish. The temperature difference between the two wings is very marked! We spent a good two hours taking in all of the exhibits. The tropical fish were very exotic and brightly coloured while the Mediterranean species were more muted in colour and often quite familiar, many of them from the fishmonger's slab!

We rested our tired feet sitting on benches watching the shark tank for quite a while before taking a look around the upper floors. These were a curious mixture of displays: huge skeletons of whales hung from the ceiling, old fashioned displays in wooden cases and more modern exhibits. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstruction of a nineteenth century oceanographic survey ship's laboratory. We exited via the gift shop where I bought the traditional fridge magnet.

By now it was after six so we walked back down from Le Rocher to the Place des Armes where we should have got off the bus from Nice. We quickly located the return stop and a bus arrived almost immediately. In fact TWO arrived simultaneously. We got on the second bus and found seats, though not together. The ride back was as pleasant as the ride out and seemed to pass even more quickly.

We got off at Place Garibaldi and went to the Civette de Garibaldi for a couple of St. Omer "à la pression". After that we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at the Grand Café de Turin next door. We found a table for two in the open air on the edge of the Place Garibaldi. Lisa went for variety with a mixed platter of raw and cooked seafood whle I kept things simple with a dozen "No. 1" oysters. We shared a bottle of Sancerrre and passed a very pleasant couple of hours in the warm evening. Lisa found her platter quite a lot to deal with so I had three of her eight oysters. The food was wonderfully fresh and a real pleasure to eat. It was a really magical experience.

After coffee, we strolled back across the Place Garibaldi to catch the tram home. We looked through the photos we'd taken today. Inside an aquarium is a difficult place to take pictures and even Lisa, with her DSLR, struggled to get really good shots of the fish we saw. We played iPad games for a while, then I was the first to turn in.